Archive for August, 2008

teasing!



Guess who’s coming back to Top Shelf 2.0 soon…

more shameless self-promotion!

Oh by the way, my interview with PWCW‘s Laura Hudson is up on her blog Myriad Issues. We talk about a few issues related to digital comics distribution, including my attempt to construct a theoretical division of media experiences into “ephemeral” and “permanent” — something that isn’t entirely fleshed out yet, but I’m getting closer to figuring out what I’m trying to say.

This is the section that seems to be hooking people the most:

If you treat your comics as newspapers from a fictional universe, there’s no reason to read them twice.

Choose your destiny!


Today’s Top Shelf 2.0 story is new material from Kagan McLeod — a sort of “bonus chapter” never before seen in the original self-published Infinite Kung Fu comic book. Kagan has been going through and “remastering” the whole series, often re-inking whole pages, in preparation for the release of the complete IKF graphic novel from Top Shelf next year. Today’s is an example of an all-new scene that he’s added to improve the flow of the story and lay the groundwork for the whole plot. In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to serialize the book with regular web updates, just as we did with Matt Kindt’s Eisner-nominated Super Spy.

what the world needs now is Dark Superman

I totally called this:

Like the recent Batman sequel — which has become the highest-grossing film of the year thus far — Mr. Robinov wants his next pack of superhero movies to be bathed in the same brooding tone as “The Dark Knight.” Creatively, he sees exploring the evil side to characters as the key to unlocking some of Warner Bros.’ DC properties. “We’re going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it,” he says. That goes for the company’s Superman franchise as well.

If Dark Knight has already convinced the suits that “darker=better,” Watchmen is going to seal the deal.

Oh goody. Now, far be it from me to begrudge anyone his or her own personal “aha” moment:

Snyder remembers screening some Watchmen footage for an unnamed studio executive. Afterward, Snyder says, the exec turned to him and said, ”This makes Superman look stupid.”

To get grumpy about the mass audience discovering something that hip comic fans discovered years ago would just be elitism, and as tempting as it is, I recognize that it’s not fair.

What I’m honestly not looking forward to is the deluge of misguided imitations of the Dark Knight/Watchmen vibe, as the broader entertainment industry tries to digest this pill that the comics industry first swallowed 20 years ago and is finally, gradually, starting to metabolize. Sure, some of the influence will be good — we’re not likely to see Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze again — but as the AV Club put it, “the immediate impact of Watchmen was a wave of violent, ugly, and stupid superhero comics.” We’re about to see that unfold all over again, writ large.

Hopefully it won’t last too long and the next big Hollywood trend will arrive soon. Cowboy musicals or something.

we nerds, we love our lists

Alan David Doane has a list of 100 must-read graphic novels that’s sparked a bit of discussion, including some play-along-at-home “bold the ones you’ve read” memery. Quite a few Top Shelf titles included, he noted with pride.

Careful, guys. If this thing catches on Dick’s going to have to do another meta-list.

“All bad art is the result of good intentions”

Wilde (1997)
dir: Brian Gilbert

Stephen Fry is a treasure and it’s a privilege to see him perform in any circumstances.

To see him portray Oscar Wilde, an even greater genius and one of Fry’s personal heroes, should have been a delightful experience. Unfortunately, the result is disappointingly lifeless and generic.

I think the primary fact crippling this production was the filmmakers’ goal of presenting Wilde as 1) an ordinary man to whom we can all relate and 2) a tragic hero of gay liberation. Undoubtedly both of these elements are present in Wilde’s story, but the emphasis on his ordinariness in this production ultimately left him uninteresting, a passive character in his own life story, often at a loss as to what to say or do. Oscar Wilde was many things, but he was never uninteresting and never at a loss for words. The humanizing of a genius only works if we are shown the genius, at least a little bit — which this team has either forgotten, or deliberately declined, to do. Wilde’s conversational wit, his outlandish manner and costume, his ideas about interior decorating, his unprecedented celebrity, and most of all his writing, are all mentioned but barely shown. Fry has said “it’s very important that we don’t see him as this sort of peacock, this kind of posing, prancing queen,” and screenwriter Julian Mitchell mentions not wanting to pack the script with Wilde’s “greatest hits,” which is fair enough, but we’re left with no sense of scale, and no reason to care about him at all.

It’s typical that the film poster, featuring Fry as Wilde in this outrageous suit striding through the grumpy barristers, has been digitally altered to make the suit a supersaturated pink. With several openly gay folks involved in the production, one clear goal of the film was to reach contemporary gay audiences and connect Wilde to “the contemporary gay experience.” But on the other hand, he doesn’t wear anything so shocking in the film itself — the suit in that scene is actually a modest pale tan, and the scene isn’t particularly outrageous at all. The filmmakers are stuck with either cliché or ordinariness, both of which seem rather treasonous in a film about Wilde, of all people.

Fry is a captivating critic and speaker with a deep understanding of Wilde (see podcast #3) — indeed, watching him in the making-of featurettes and interviews is more fun than the film itself. That he as Wilde is so often forced to keep quiet and stare thoughtfully off-camera is a great waste. Young Jude Law is appropriately angelic in appearance and infantile in behavior.

The score, like the film itself, is too easy — standard Hollywood melodrama.

Oscar Wilde was certainly a man who loved men, but if that’s all he had been, we would not remember him today. That’s essentially all we’re shown here, and the result is forgettable. It’s not the film Oscar would have made.

Traduttore, traditore

Dan Walsh, who runs the Garfield Minus Garfield site, has chipped in to my previous entry to correct some misconceptions about the new GMG book. On August 2 he created a FAQ for the site, including:

Q. How did you come up with the idea for Garfield Minus Garfield?
A. I wasn’t the first person to come up with the premise for Garfield Minus Garfield but I think it’s fair to say I did champion and popularise it. The idea had been floating around on message boards for a couple years before I started posting them.
As far I know, I was the first person to create a site devoted to it.
I’ve said this to every interviewer who has asked me but it’s rarely published. And it’s pretty much impossible to find who did it first, believe me, I’ve tried.

“I didn’t invent this” doesn’t make for good copy, it’s true. For a publicist trying to sell a new Garfield book to suburban housewives, it makes sense to play down that angle. But exploring the issue does lead to a fascinating debate about the future of content creation and the growing pains as traditional business practices clash with new ways of interacting with art. Some of which I tried to address in the original post.

In any case, I did unfairly tar Walsh with the same brush that I attacked the endlessly-irritating Cheezburger guys with, which I gladly retract.

On some level I really get where he’s coming from. I’ve daydreamed from time to time about writing a serious analysis of /b/ and why it’s important in far more ways than anyone’s articulated so far. It’s interesting — in the process of recommending John Darnielle’s brilliant book Master of Reality to a friend, I said:

Given the nature of metal’s core demographic appeal (young, working class, outsider, etc), it’s frustratingly rare to find articulate writers who genuinely “get” the genre. I identify closely with Darnielle; I think we both discovered that appeal despite being outside that demographic, which leads to a delicate balancing act between wanting to serve as ambassadors to the outside world, encouraging the sophistication of a relatively infantile artform, and trying not to patronize the existing fanbase. As somebody who has repeatedly found myself fascinated with various forms of “low” culture, I think about this kind of thing a lot.

There’s always that dance when you discover something cool and edgy and feel like it deserves more exposure. There’s a temptation to serve as curator or even translator, sanding off the rough edges or repackaging it in a way that helps new people understand it — without taking credit for something that isn’t yours or destroying what made it great in the first place. Like any task, it can be done well or poorly. It’s something that every publisher does, but it seems especially central to Top Shelf’s mission: treading that boundary between artsy and populist.

For instance, though I had no role whatsoever in its creation, I’m pleased to say that Cave Adventure is the most “mainstream” thing I’ve ever seen Michael Deforge do, and for that reason my favorite. I’m happy that he’s able to use his insane imagination to tell a coherent and hilarious story, and I think it actually fits in really well with Top Shelf’s aesthetic. I’m looking forward to more involved editorial relationships in the future (when I find the time — ha); when it’s done right, everybody wins.


Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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